David & Goliath
UK Overseas Fossil Fuels Campaign
The fossil fuel era is ending – this campaign brought the end date closer.
For decades, the UK has provided billions in taxpayers’ money for fossil fuel projects all over the world. The UK taxpayer has helped support coal mines in Russia, oil refineries in Bahrain and gas projects in war-torn Mozambique. This financial support has made climate change worse, and locked developing countries into fossil fuel use instead of moving towards clean energy.
Despite being told that it was impossible to end fossil fuel investment, a small number of campaigners from a diverse range of organisations ‘used every tool in the box’, working for three years to bring this funding of fossil fuels to an end.
By lobbying MPs, persuading civil servants, staging noisy protests, publishing media-friendly investigations and allying with communities affected by UK-funded projects, the campaign turned a highly technical issue into a simple message that was picked up by politicians from across the political spectrum – ‘stop funding fossil fuels overseas.
In December last year, after repeatedly being embarrassed by the campaign, the Government announced that all taxpayer support for fossil fuel projects overseas would end. The UK is the first major country to make this commitment and, as the campaigners had predicted, if the UK moved first other countries would follow. Within weeks, it was announced that the new Biden administration would follow the UK and end their overseas fossil fuel support, and several EU countries are known to be planning similar moves. The campaign has started a domino effect of countries planning to end their taxpayer support for fossil fuels.
The campaign believes this is important because it is taxpayer-backed finance that helps keep the planet-killing fossil fuel industry going. By removing the financial support that the fossil fuel industry enjoys, it will not be able to keep polluting. Phasing out fossil fuels also opens the door for more radical climate policies.
Starting with only a small number of people, the campaign evolved into a well-run coalition effort, which has helped set a new global standard for climate action.
There is much more to do. The campaign has identified some loopholes in the policy that must, and they say will, be closed. In addition, although the UK’s financing for fossil fuels overseas is coming to an end, the Government still plans to defy climate science and keep extracting fossil fuels at home, with plans to keep pumping oil and gas out of the North Sea for decades to come.
The next challenge is for this to end too, with a well-planned phase-out to protect oil and gas workers as we move towards the green jobs of the future.
Who else was involved?
Global Witness, E3G, Tearfund, CAFOD, Christian Aid, Friends of the Earth (EWNI), Greenpeace, Bretton Woods Project, Oil Change International and Global Justice Now.